Injuries to top cyclists

Tour de France in the mountains

Top International cyclists have been involved in serious accidents in recent days, threatening their participation in major tours, such as the 2024 Gyro and the Tour de France.
Winner of the last two Tours de France, Jonas Vingegaard broke his collarbone, several ribs and suffered a collapsed lung; Remco Evenepoel, winner of the 2022 Vuelta d’Espagnol, also broke his collarbone and scapula in the same crash; Wout van Aert, stage winner and super domestique to Vingegaard in the Tour, also broke his collarbone in a crash at the end of March.
Primoz Roglic, Winner of the 2023 Gyro, also abandoned in the same crash as Vingegard and Evenopoel.

The other recent Tour winner and Vingegaard’s great rival Tajed Pogacar seems to be the only one of the top riders to have steered clear of catastrophic crashes.

Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal, previous Tour de France winners, seem to be quietly preparing for upcoming Gyro and Tour de France. Bernal though is still recovering from a serious injury and is only just showing some signs of a return to form.

All the signs are pointing to Tour success for Pogacar, but who knows, perhaps there are other cyclists who will ride to success through the serious injuries to the favourites.

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Low Traffic Neighbourhoods

Since the local elections in Bath where the Liberal Democrats were given an even bigger majority than in 2019, there should be no excuse for not continuing the policy of Liveable Streets (Low Traffic neighbourhoods), which were applied by the Tories. Bath is now a “no go zone” for Tory councillors. This can happen while we still have a “first past the post” electoral system.

The simple definition of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, sometimes called Liveable Neighbourhoods, is residential streets where through traffic is prevented from driving through and creating “rat runs”, making the streets safer and less polluted. All the streets have access for cars being driven by people who live there. Access is allowed for walkers and bike riders and wheel chairs. Through traffic is directed to the main roads.

One of the main criticisms has been that this will increase pollution and congestion by putting more traffic on main roads. However, studies have proved that even over a short period of time traffic does not increase, as more people walk, use bikes or buses for the short journeys they would otherwise have taken by car. This of course is one of the benefits of LTNs of getting more people into Active Travel. As well as making streets more pleasant for people living in them, there are health and fitness benefits for many.

Of course getting more people into Active Travel will also help the UK towards net Zero emissions therebye combatting Climate Change. What is there to dislike about these LTNs? There has been opposition to LTNs in some areas because drivers are notoriously against any moves to restrict where they can drive their cars. This is a sad comment on the car culture in the UK.

I fail to I understand what is so divisive about Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, when they are simply putting through traffic on to roads that were built for this purpose.

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Kidicale Mass cycle

On Sunday 7th May the most recent Kidicale Mass cycle took place in Bath. The route was of 3 miles through mostly city centre streets, ending at Sydney Gardens play area. Although I did not count there must have been around 150 riders, ranging from newly independent riding children and those in cargo bikes and on kiddy tandems with parents, to more mature riders. What was good about the ride was the number of families there riding together.

Assembly at Orange Grove

Luke Ludwell, manager of AVC the Brompton Speciaists at Bath Railway Station, provided well amplified music as an accompaniment to the ride. The ride began at Orange Grove and finished at the Sydney Gardens. Newly elected Lambridge Green Councillors Joanna Wright and Saskia Heijltjes took a leading role in the organisation.

I have taken part in mass cycle rides in the past, particularly under the guise of Sky Rides, where roads were closed to enable people to bring families out on to the roads. In Bath these focussed around Victoria Park and Upper Bristol Road. Kidicale Mass does not require any road closures, but it is very successful in getting parents out with their children. There is of course, a long way to go before parents will be willing to allow unaccompanied children to ride their bikes on our roads. Much more infrastructure, such as the segregated cycle ways on Upper Bristol Road is needed before children in any numbers will be able to ride bikes on the roads.

Green Councillor Joanna Wright

Joanna Wright tells me that this bit of Upper Bristol Road infrastructure was down to her when she was Cabinet Member for Transport for the Lib Dems, before she was forced to join the Greens. I understand this defection was because the Lib Dems would not make an North Road running from Bathwick to Claverton Down into a low traffic neighbourhood, which would have provided a safe route for students to Bath University and to Ralph Allen School.

In my view the Lib Dem group, should continue to implement their Active Travel policy and in particular improvements to Liveable Neighbourhoods. Hopefully “Scholars Way” is high on the list of priorities.

Finish at Sydney Gardens play area

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Recent improvements for people riding bikes in the south of the city

Riding from Combe Down to Widcombe on Ralph Allen Drive is a lottery of uneven road and potholes. The whole of RAD needs resurfacing. The Drive is positively dangerous for people on bikes and not good for motor vehicles either. It must be getting on for 20 years since it was last resurfaced.

Contra flow in Widcombe

The first provision for bike riders is at the bottom of Prior Park Road where riders can turn left into a “contra flow”, ride on a segregated route against the normal traffic flow, then ride to the crossing on Rossiter Road.
Once across, a right turn takes you on to the towpath and into the city centre at Pulteney Bridge. Left and the rider is asked to dismount over the half penny bridge, as walkers and riders are thrown together into a very small space. It would be better if there were no barriers here to provide more space for people crossing the river, with perhaps a “Share with Care” notice in place.

If the rider wishes to go towards Churchill Bridge the pavement is very little used and is in any case wide enough for careful riders and walkers. Access across the river is over the wide footbridge next to the bus station. From here it is but a short distance to the new shared path leading to the new bridge at Newark Works or on to the river tow path. The new bridge is wide, so plenty of room for walkers and riders.

New bridge to Newark Works

The bridge crosses the river and takes you to Mokoko bakery and cafe, which has plenty of cycle stands along the whole of the building and outside eating, which gets the full sun in the morning.

The anticipation must be that this area will become over time a much used area with more businesses and most employees coming to work by walking and cycling.

The approach to Newark Bridge

The approach to Newark Bridge is by a newly constructed shared path, about the same width as Newark Bridge giving plenty of room. It is a shame that if people are not going over the Bridge they have to just join the road and take their chances with traffic.

Despite all of the improvements in infrastructure for cycling, many of the new facilities do not link together. This really is a shame that more thought is not given to joining up some of the recent developments in infrastructure. Despite the Climate threat to the planet many people disregard the threat as soon as actions limit their own ability to use their own personal transport.

The next section and photos illustrate the excellent segregated cycle lanes on the Upper Bristol Road. These are a first for Bath. The photos also show how the bus stops integrate very well into the cycle lanes.

Bus stop on inbound cycleway

The photo on the right shows how bus stops, can be very clearly fitted into the cycle lanes and notices explain to bus passengers that they have priority over people on bikes in these positions.

These cycle lanes are classed as “Quickways” in Oxford and are under consultation at present. The principle here is that for riding bikes to become a part of normal commuting segregated cycle routes need to be on main roads used by all vehicles for commuting. Usually the quickest, most direct route.

In an earlier post On this blog I describe a survey that I did in Oxford on the Iffley Road to show how a “Quickway” would work. Councils often find the most difficult part in these cycle routes is providing safe bus stops. B&NES have shown that it has officers with the ability to solve this most often presented problem. However both the inward and outward cycle lanes on the Upper Bristol Road eventually drop people on bikes into the normal vehicular traffic flow.

New cycle stands at Newark Works – great provision for the future

There is a need to look carefully at how these segregated cycle lanes go as far as possible into Queen Square, at the city end and link to the off-road CycleBath at the Globe straight. From the end of the Globe Straight a segregated cycle route to Saltford  to link with the off road route into Keynsham Would be a really good route linking Bath with Saltford and Keynsham.

Certainly the Lower Bristol Road should also be looked at for a segregated cycle lane such as the one on the Upper Bristol Road. There is certainly potential for a route here on the main road.

My criticism of these cycle routes, despite enthusiasm for what has been achieved, is that when they are conceived the maximum extension should be planned at the outset. Routes should be planned to be complete, linking destinations, not just finishing and disgorging bike riders into vehicular traffic.

A start on looking at complete routes for bikes along main roads – London Road, Upper and Lower Bristol Roads, the A4 to Saltford and Keynsham and completing the partially done route on Wellsway – would be a good way to begin a comprehensive cycle network for Bath and surrounds. I also wonder when the long expected “Scholars Way” will ever be completed? There would be real challenges to B&NES officers to use the expertise shown on the Upper Bristol Road and to apply it to other main roads. However, the real solution to providing cycle routes in the Authority remains with the Liberal Democrat Administration and the Greens.











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Swytchbike conversion up and running

This morning I rode up Ralph Allen Drive using my new electric power on my old ‘Ridgeback Supernova’. It was amazing. Obviously the amount of manual work can be varied by using the gears on the bike. For my first ascent I just wanted to do it with the minimum of effort. I did move my power to the maximum just to see how easy it would be, so I didn’t have to work very hard.

This image shows the battery on handlebars the motor on the front wheel.

This new innovation will ensure that I ride my bike to and from the city on a more regular basis. The conversion is very light and shows how battery power for bikes has come on over the years. I could have purchased a new electric bike, but that would seem to be a bit extravagant considering that I already have three bikes and it would certainly have been heavier than this conversion.

Other than the motor and the battery there is very little extra weight on the bike, which allows riding on the flat without the electrics turned on, no more difficult than before any weight was added. I have documented some of the problems I had with Swytchbike earlier on this blog., but all was sorted in the end. Obviously there are other conversions for bikes, where you don’t have to wait as long as you do to receive the Swytchbike conversion package. However in the end it was worth the wait. 


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10 years of cycling blog.

It was 10 years ago, when holidaying on Corfu, that I decided to begin writing a cycling blog. I was at the time nursing a damaged ego from being booted out of my job as Cabinet Member for Transport on Bath and North East Somerset Council. I needed to continue, in some way, of promoting my belief in sustainable transport with special emphasis on cycling. My successor was intent on cancelling all my initiatives on cycling that were on the way to being completed.
My first blog post concerned 20 mph speed limits to be imposed on residential streets throughout the Council. This took far longer than it should have because of some B&NES transport officers not being convinced of the benefits of the project. It is staggering that some councils have still not implemented 20 mph speed limits, despite report after report stating that 20 mph speed limits make our streets safer. I have reprinted below the article I wrote for the Local Government Association at the time:

“As I look out of my window I can see three little girls riding their bikes in my street. A common occurrence here, where people in this quiet residential street are aware of children playing and are careful, but in other streets this is pretty unusual. In the past most children liked to play out close to home, but it is now more likely they will be kept indoors to play, because of the danger of speeding traffic going past.

Across the country 44 councils so far, have decided to implement “signs only” 20 mph speed limits. The usual justification for this move is to make

20 is Plentyour residential roads safer. The Transport Research Laboratory found that approximately 98% of pedestrians will survive a 20mph collision. Their chances drop to around 93% at 30mph and 69% at 40mph.

However, putting in 20 mph speed limits in residential streets means more than just making streets safer. It is the beginning of a culture change where people on foot and on bikes, and children playing, take precedence over passing motor vehicles. It’s about giving control of streets back to the people who live in them.

Councils can do signs only “blanket” coverage for a fraction of the cost of 20mph zones, where there are physical measures such as speed tables, to prevent drivers from breaking the law. 20 mph zones, with restraints still have their place but with reducing funds less of them can be implemented by Councils.

Critics say that “signs only” 20 mph speed limits cannot be enforced, but then enforcement of any speed limit is difficult given reducing police resources, but that is not the point. If councils achieve a small reduction in speed it has a big affect on safety. Signs only 20 mph should be self enforcing by drivers, by becoming the default speed limit and exceeding it should become as rare as the non wearing of seat belts.

Government advice now encourages Traffic Authorities to consider 20mph restrictions not just in residential areas, but also on busier roads where the numbers of pedestrians and cyclists are—or could be—significant. A sure sign of a growing move to 20 mph.”

Many councils in England now have 20mph speed limits, with the latest Cornwall. In Wales they are about to be implemented throughout the country. In Bath we had long campaigned for 20 mph limits and were amongst some of the first councils to do this.

I am very proud to have played my part in this movement, but I am sorry to say that in 2019 I was caught exceeding the 20 mph speed limit on Rush Hill. It did however prove to me that the police were carrying out their promise to enforce where resources were available. The irony of my exceeding the speed limit was not lost on me!



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Continuation of installation of Swytchbike electric conversion kit

I tried again to assemble the kit yesterday, but I was foiled in getting the battery holder fitted on the handlebars, so I took the bike into Tom at Greenpark bike station. Tom did the last bit of the installation today, but at the same time identified parts that needed changing/renewing. I can’t say I am really surprised as the bike is around 15 to 20 years old and was last serviced by Tom years ago after my chain broke on Dartmoor. I’m afraid I am the sort of rider who just keeps riding until something goes wrong. The bike should be ready sometime tomorrow. I am pleased that the electrics seem to be working OK. It’s been quite a worrying couple of weeks, as I documented in the last post!

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Waiting for an electric bike conversion in Bath

Well it’s about a year since I wrote on this blog. My situation has changed. From living happily (or so I thought) with my partner in Oxford, I am now back in Bath living on my own. Nic and I were together for 23 years and we had a loving relationship and many cycling adventures, particularly in Italy.
In my view, much evidenced in this blog, Oxford is much more cycle friendly than Bath will ever be and riding my bike there was life affirming and very rewarding.

I moved back to Bath last June to live again in Combe Down, in a street that I have often thought would be a good place to live, (it has since proved to be so), but riding a bike up the southern hills has become more of a struggle as I have aged, so I decided to get an electric bike conversion for my old Ridgeback Supernova. On the recommendation of my nephew I chose to go with “Swytchbike” as their conversion uses a small handlebar mounted battery and electric motor on the front wheel.

One of the problems with Swytch is the time the company takes to make the conversion kit available. The forecast from ordering was 6/7 months, but that was OK as the kit would arrive in either January or February of this year. However, the kit only arrived at the end of March.

Fitting the new front wheel with the motor was straightforward, but from this good start things went from bad to worse. A magnetic ring is to be fitted to the crank axle where it meets the bike frame. It is made of plastic and would not fit until some of the plastic connector was trimmed. Once this was achieved I then found that a vital component, a pedal sensor, which works with the magnetic ring was missing from the kit. I am now waiting for this essential component to be sent by “Swytchbike”. Let’s hope this doesn’t take too long and I can get on with assembling my electric conversion kit.

However, delay has made me get my “Genesis Croix de Fer” back into service, which I haven’t ridden for a couple of years.

I will continue to write updates on my continued efforts to install a bike conversion kit.


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Cycling in Oxford better than in Bath

For me when I was a lad at school riding a “racing bike” with dropped handlebars was the ultimate thrill and with three speed gearing I could tackle steep hills. Now I can still just about ride hills, but with Mountain bike gears – 27 of them. During a period of about 25 years I was seduced by driving cars, mostly minis. I came back to cycling in the 1980s, no longer able to run, because of an arthritic knee joint and able to use cycling as part of a fitness regime by  commuting by bike.

My Partner and I have only been in Oxford for 2+ years, having previously been long term residents in Bath. Amongst the reasons for moving to Oxford was that there is some infrastructure for cycling here and the city is mostly on the flat. When in Bath, living at the top of a hill, meant a ride of 1.25km with a rise of 200m when going home, became increasingly more difficult. Here in Oxford bikes are now our main method of transport.(see left)

One of the main differences between Oxford and Bath, is the Oxford cycling infrastructure and as a result there are many more bikes on the roads. Drivers are used to having people riding bikes and appear to be much more patient than their counterparts in Bath, where there are fewer cyclists. It  is also comforting to see the high number of people riding bikes here. We no longer feel like aliens on the roads. 

In Bath I was once knocked off my bike by an elderly lady driver, who when she got out of her car needed crutches to walk. Thankfully I was unhurt.  I was not so lucky when I came off, breaking my femur, after turning left and sliding along a “dropped” kerb. I was unable to move out and do a proper left turn owing to heavy motor traffic. 

There are a some drivers who are hostile to cyclists. It is difficult to tell whether this antipathy is because riders are seen as delaying drivers or whether it is because drivers dislike the fact that bike riders are able to go past when vehicles are stuck in traffic, or is it a deeper psychological factor of resentment that many drivers are not able to enjoy the fitness levels and well being that riding a bike provides?

My own experience of riding and being overtaken at speed by cars, particularly on hills, is frightening and dangerous, leading to riding on pavements in Bath, when going uphill. People riding bikes will feel safer once the the proposed “Quickways” project, with parking spaces removed from main roads, allowing space for protected cycle lanes, is implemented. The photo on the left above, demonstrates how the Iffley Road could look. “Quickways” should make using a direct route to school or work safer and more direct.

Even reducing through traffic in residential areas is proving controversial in some places, but in Oxford these Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) are going ahead. In East Oxford some are already completed. In these LTNs one end of a road is blocked off only allowing local traffic, people in wheelchairs, walkers and bike riders. There is nothing new about these, as there are long standing examples already in place. For instance locally in Fairacres Road and Tree Lane.

With growing concerns about climate change, more sedentary lifestyles and increasing pollution in our cities, most local and national decision makers are looking to fund more cycle infrastructure, even though there is a little noisy opposition. The newly elected County Council must hold their nerve.

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The future for cycling after the Pandemic

Many types of bike left by travellers at Oxford Railway Station`

As we gradually emerge from this latest lockdown, we are seeing Oxford’s roads getting much busier. But they are busy not only with motor traffic, but also with people on bikes.   

Since March 2020 when the first lockdown started Oxford and Oxfordshire saw a huge increase in people riding bikes because motor traffic was greatly reduced and  roads became safer for bike riders. People realised that crowded public transport was too risky and stopped travelling by bus. Indeed one of the many sadnesses of the pandemic has been to see buses almost empty of people travelling around the city and county roads. 

By contrast one of the few positives of the pandemic has been that riding bikes became more and more popular, with many people riding for exercise and to get to work. Cyclox’s own Bikes for Keyworkers project, where 350 bikes were donated and refurbished and given free to keyworkers  showed just how valuable cycling was perceived to be.  

During the lockdowns bike shops were amongst those businesses that were classified as essential and most Oxford bike shops stayed open.  Such was the demand for new bikes the shops rapidly sold out. Bike manufacturers, mostly in the Far East, were not able to increase production fast enough. There was also a demand for spare parts with many bikes being brought out of sheds and garages and give a new lease of life. 

With the advent of Brexit, bikes can move tariff free between the EU and UK only if the value of components from outside the EU or UK amount to less than 45% of the total value. If the value exceeds 45%, bikes attract a 14% tariff. Most bikes would not make this cut, given that many components originate in the Far East. With the changes in trading relationships with Europe post Brexit, and with the pandemic leading to shortages in supplies because of its impact on manufacture it has looked like the “perfect storm” for the cycle industry.

The verdict from the bike industry in the short term is that there will be difficulties with cost and supply, but in the longer term there is optimism, given the ongoing demand for bikes for exercise, commuting and leisure. 

Now that the vaccination scheme is in full swing we are gradually being able to be in contact with friends and family. Whether we want to get “back to normal” or whether we want to “build forward better” is a crucial question. To get more people on bikes the key issue is to make roads quieter. We hope that our new county administration will support the creation of more low traffic neighbourhoods, where through traffic is restricted, and the implementation of Connecting Oxford aimed at reducing traffic volumes across the city. 

*This article was first published in the Oxford Mail under the Cyclox banner on Saturday 29th May 2021





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